As anyone who made it through third-grade American history may recall, the Brits had a bit of a political and cultural impact on the new world. British-inspired homes, for example, are so prevalent in the United States that they’re just called ‘Colonial.’ But another nation’s influence can be spotted throughout the country. Spanish Colonial homes were first built in the parts of America settled by Spaniards—namely Florida, California, and throughout the Southwest—from the 1600s to the mid-1800s.
Since the Spanish settled in areas with similarly temperate climates as their homeland, the houses they built were quite similar to those found in Spain. ‘As a matter of practicality, colonizing settlers merged building practices of their home nation with the local materials and tools available,’ explains Andrew Cogar, AIA, and president of Historical Concepts, an architecture firm based in Atlanta and New York that specializes in traditional yet modern homes.
Since Spanish Colonial architecture was built across such a large geographic area with varying indigenous populations, the style has some regional distinctions as well. ‘Despite sharing the same Spanish cultural traditions and building techniques, the Southeast and Southwest had markedly different stylistic responses, based upon their specific geography and indigenous cultures,’ Andrew says.
What features make up Spanish Colonial style?
Even with these regional differences, Spanish Colonial homes share several distinct characteristics. The structures are built with very thick walls, typically white stucco over adobe brick or stone (which helped keep the houses cool), and have a limited number of small window openings; in early homes these tiny windows didn’t have glass, just holes with wood shutters that opened and closed.